ulham’s players have the day off but Vincenzo Montella is at the training ground for a work-out. “It’s what I do,” he shrugs, slightly nonplussed that this routine might attract curiosity.
Montella looks like a movie star, relaxing off set in designer shades and baggy denim shorts, but there is an intense dedication to his work.
In fact, his greatest frustration at Fulham has been that he has felt unable to do his job properly — first because he lacked match sharpness and then because he found himself stuck on the bench.
The 32-year-old might ooze wealth and glamour and date beautiful Italian TV presenter Rachele di Fiore, but he speaks with humour and modesty.
It is easy to see how he has become such a popular figure at Fulham in the few months since his arrival from Roma. A flurry of four goals in his first five games did not hurt, either.
Montella looked destined to be one of the shrewdest signings of the winter window until a red card in the final seconds of an FA Cup defeat at home to Spurs for an elbow on Robbie Keane meant all the work he had done to get himself up to speed was undone.
“It was the first time I’d been sent off in my career,” explains Montella.
“It was probably the right decision but it was the 90th minute and we were 4-0 down. I was frustrated and I made my apologies immediately.
“It was also frustrating because I missed three matches and there were two breaks in fixtures for Cup games and internationals and I didn’t play in about five or six weeks.”
Fulham had sunk deeper into the relegation mire by the time Montella was back in action and Chris Coleman, the man who had lured him from Roma to Craven Cottage on a six-month loan, was under pressure.
The Italian found himself on the bench once again — he has started in only three of his 13 appearances for Fulham. When Coleman was fired earlier this month, there were rumours that chairman Mohamed al Fayed had grown impatient with the manager’s reluctance to start the Italian international up front.
“I don’t think that was the case,” said Montella. “If you look at the first game with the new manager, I didn’t start the game either.”
Caretaker manager Lawrie Sanchez restored Montella to the starting XI last weekend against Blackburn and it took him just 10 minutes to find the net, albeit with a stroke of luck as the ball deflected into the top corner off his knee.
It may prove a significant moment in Fulham’s season, not only because it secured a precious point but also because it marked Montella’s return to the scoresheet.
His predatory instinct will be vital if the Londoners are to gather points from their last three games, starting at Arsenal tomorrow.
“I’m having wonderful experience, but I don’t know if I will stay,” he said. “I’ll make a decision when it has to be made. There are various possibilities that need to be discussed. Maybe Fulham wouldn’t want to keep me.”